Use of Drones In Camp Settings

The use of drones in the camping setting, both from staff as well as campers, has been on the rise over the past few years.  Effective 8/29/2016, the FAA issued revised rulings on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), more commonly known as “drones.”  In short, the rulings allow drones weighing less than 55 lbs. to be used in the public sector.  However, before you rush out the door with your drone and “life off,” you’d better read the fine print or suffer some stiff penalties.  You can find a summary of Part 107 by clicking on this website https://www.faa.gov/uas/media/Part_107_Summary.pdf.

However, before pursuing your remote pilot airman certification and other operational requirements, you may want to check off with your insurance broker.  Why?  As it relates to the use of drones for commercial purposes (i.e. camp videos and photos), drones are considered as “aircraft” by the FAA, and aircraft are specifically excluded by most if not all camp general liability insurers.  While not all insurers are providing this type of coverage for camps, there are some that do and charging roughly $1,000 a year in premium.

What should a camp do?  Effective policies will provide sufficient guidance to employee’s to prevent the misuse of drones either on a personal or professional level within the camp properties and programs.  In addition, drone requirements should be well stated in marketing materials to campers, families and rental groups in order to restrict the use of unauthorized drones in the camp setting.  Keep in mind, any use of drones within the operational custody and control of the camp that causes damage to a third party will not be covered by your insurance plan.

So, while the onset of drones has provided some super cool video footage at camps across the country, the future of drones is still a bit shaky.  Although the FAA has provided some achievable hurdles to becoming a qualified drone operator, the insurance industry has yet to provide a ready-made solution for coverage.   As with many of these emerging issues facing camp leaders today, the answer remains, “Stand by for more news!” 

Rick Braschler is the Director of Risk Management for Kanakuk Kamps in Branson, Mo., a Senior Risk Consultant in Youth Protection, and an expert in camp risk and safety management. Reach him at rick@kanakuk.com or (417) 266-3337.  For more information about Rick, visit www.camphow.com  orwww.kanakukchildprotection.org